Tag Archive | "Report"

Windows 8 Brings More Mobility, but Should You Wait?

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Win8-3I, like many others, believe that Windows 8 will re-enable the pocket productivity market and lift us out of this strange consumer-focused mobile mess we’re in at the moment and get us back to a place where we have ultra mobile PC choices for our mobile, flexible working practices and scenarios. Marketing, social networking, price wars and tablet fever are getting in the way of what many people want – productivity in the pocket.

I love Android and IOS of course but I’m not letting that change my opinion that there is a requirement for a full desktop capability in a handheld form factor. The market is indeed fairly small but it’s in many different niches and sectors. [Raise your hands in the comments if you’re one of those ‘niche’ users.] Android and IOS have done a lot for mobility, sharing and mobile media and have quickened the pace of mobile processor developments so much that we’ll all benefit in the end but when you look at the software, the pace of development of productivity software is just embarrassing. On the whole, It’s a sector that focuses on quick-hit, fast turnaround, short-lifecycle software and it’s vastly different to the full-fat, long lifecycle, productive and flexible software you get on the desktop. Two years after this consumer mobile market started taking off there still isn’t a way to buy an off-the-shelf DVB-T module, extend the screen or even log in with multiple user IDs. There are literally hundreds of features that are missing and each one of them is a potential roadblock for the advanced mobile user.

That’s why Windows 8 is an exciting operating system to look forward to. It will retain probably all of the flexibility of Windows 7 but will introduce important features from the world of consumer mobile devices. Always-on, improved sensor support, touch user interface, quick-hit apps and sharing along with support for ARM-based platforms and new X86 platforms that remove some of the old legacy PC features and introduce new boot and power management subsystems. Between now and, lets say, mid 2012, I doubt we’ll see any of the existing mobile operating systems advance so far that they challenge Windows and none of the new operating systems have much of a chance either. Buying an ultra-mobile PC has never been so hard but 12-24 months is a long time to wait for Windows 8. If you’ve got a requirement, you need a device and it’s as simple as that.

Your first strategy would be to sit tight and do nothing.  That assumes you don’t have a new requirement or your current device(s) can be stretched out until then. If you have a new requirement though, be it speed or scenario, and you don’t have a device you can cover it with you could believe the rumors that Windows 8 will arrive early or you could do one of the following things:

1 – Go netbook

It’s a low-cost solution but requires a table or a lap. That’s not quite ultra mobile computing is it! Having said that, if you want to save money until Windows 8 comes along, searching for a surface or using your lap might not be too much of a problem to put up with. My advise would be to look at some of the Atom N550 or N570-based devices with a focus on Samsung who still seem to lead with better build quality and more efficient electronic engineering and screens than others. The NF310 continues to get good reports. Asus are also worth considering and the Eee PC 1015 with N570, 2GB RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium is a real bargain at under 400 Euro in my opinion. There’s even the updated T101MT with N570 and 2GB, Windows Home Premium and capacitive touchscreen at around 500 Euro in Europe. Drop a fast SSD into that and it should make quite a nice Windows convertible.

2 – Buy a Menlow UMPC

Given the age of Menlow and the lack of choices around it’s not something I would recommend to everyone but if the pocket is the destination and Windows is the requirement, what option do you have than to buy a Viliv N5 or a UMID Mbook SE? Both companies appear to have disappeared from the radar though so be very aware that major failures may not be fixable.

3 – Wait for an Oaktrail UMPC

ECS and Viliv have both talked about building a 7 inch Oaktrail-based Windows tablet but unless a major customer or market is found, neither of those solutions are going to hit the market. By all means, wait and see but I personally think it could be a very long wait.

4 – Buy an Oaktrail-based tablet

Early review of Oaktrail-based devices aren’t singing the praises about performance and with the CPU inside being basically the same as before, it’s no surprise. The RAM will need to be 2GB, the SSD will need to be fast, Aero will need to be turned off and I dare say there’s some GPU driver improvements to be made but despite the claims of speed issues, you’ll still be able to render full flash and javascript-enabled web pages with 100% accuracy and faster than any ARM-based tablet out there. Battery life reports are showing marked improvements too so if running a PC in a 5W power envelope is your aim, take a close look at Oaktrail. The Samsung PC7 (TX100, Gloria) slider is one to watch out for and although my recent queries to Samsung don’t return any new information, they certainly don’t indicate that the project has been scrapped. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

5 – Go IOS or Android, adapt your requirements and track the developments

You may want to plug in your DSLR and run the remote capture software but there are alternatives. In this case, check out the Eye-Fi card. For those wanting full Microsoft Office support, look at the Asus Transformer and think about a remote desktop solution. For full-internet-experience browsing, look at whether IOS or Honeycomb will satisfy your needs. On smaller Android tablets, the Dolphin HD and Opera Mobile browsers are coming along nicely. Firefox is progressing too.  Think about a Dell Streak (only 299 Euros here in Germany right now) or a Galaxy Tab (350 Euros) along with a low-cost netbook. Look at PC keyboard sharing solutions for Android. Think about the Google suite too. Android also offers a lot that you can’t get in a PC yet. Location, Sharing, always-on and a large amount of fun!

If you’ve read this far, you’re into ultra mobile computing which is a good thing. It’s fun, flexible and productive but you will also have very individual requirements. The private pilot. The dentist. The courtroom assistant. The musician. The world-tourer. Take a close look at your requirements and see what would want and compare it with what you, realistically, will need. If possible, take a risk or two and ignore that extreme scenario that you’ve got on your list. One thing I would advise all of you to do though is to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’m not joking when I say it changed my mobile computing world. I no longer have a netbook. I no longer have a high-end smartphone and there are very few scenarios that I can’t cover with it now. I’ve heard people say the same about the Dell Streak (5 inch) too. If you really can’t swallow that, the iPhone 4 has to be high on the list, the netbooks I mentioned above and even some older devices like the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium.

Oh, and don’t forget to look at the Toshiba Libretto W100/W105!

Screen Size Analysis (Sub 12″) Feb 2011

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This is the sixth report on sizing trends in PCs below 12 inch screen size (and above 5 inch) appearing in the German market through the popular price comparison engine, Geizhals.at (*1)  The last one was done in August 2010 In this report you’ll see  a big jump in overall numbers, a reversing of the decline in 7 inch devices and a turnaround in the 10 inch segment.


Number of SKUs in the market.


Screen size distribution

The big jump in numbers is clear to see from the top graph. Total numbers jumped by 83 and this is likely to be due to the Christmas season and introduction of new model ranges following IFA 2010. Surprisingly, the 10 inch segment has grown in numbers and %. A lot of this is attributable to dual-core Atom N550 devices.

  • Over 20 Intel Atom N550 devices appeared exclusively in the 10 inch category.
  • 62% of the devices are running on Intel Atom. One year ago, this figure was 78%  Remember that the segment includes some devices running laptop-grade CPUs and there’s an influx of AMD and ARM devices in the top and bottom end of the 5-11 inch range.  This is not just an analysis of ‘netbooks.’
  • The 7% segment had the biggest percentage growth (over 300%, from a very low starting point) and the 10% segment had the biggest numeric growth (63)
  • Including Android, over 14% of the segment runs a Linux kernel. One year ago this figure was 5%.  Almost all of this growth is within the ‘tablet’ style of devices.
  • Only 13% of the devices weigh 1KG or less. (up from 10% one year ago – again, growth is in the tablet segment)
  • 18 devices now include Nvidia ION2.  All of these are from a single manufacturer – ASUS.
  • Total number of tablet form-factor devices – 60 (not including 4.8 inch) which is about 10% of the total sub 12% screen size market.

The cheapest devices (based on lowest price offered) are:

  • X86/Windows Laptop – Samsung N145 at 228 Euro
  • ARM Tablet – Nexoc Pad 7 (Android 1.5) at 99 Euro
  • X86/Windows Tablet – Archos 9 at 402 Euros.

Also of note is the larger spread of GPU technologies, the increased us of SSDs (even in the X86/Windows segments) and a large number of dual-core CPUs. Dual core CPUs make up a 30% of the 10-11.6 inch bracket now.

In the last report I talked about a netbook freeze.  Certainly the trends for search and news seem to be heading south (see below for ‘netbook’ trend)  but the increase in numbers of 10 inch devices indicates that there is still interest from manufacturers. The increase in SKU’s, however, could be misleading as we’re seeing an increase in the number of colour options, CPU options, GPU options and screen options that use the same chassis. Acer and ASUS each have over 90 different model types in the German market in the 10-11.6 inch category.


I think most people in the netbook field would agree we’re seeing a levelling of interest and manufacturers are using offers and personalisation to attract sales in this mainstream part of the segment lifecycle.

For mobility fans though the message is clear. There are more options than ever and competition is increasing which will drive improvements in software and hardware very quickly. Certainly we will see the tablet segment grow and it will be interesting to see how the 5-9 inch segments move when we do the next analysis in about 3 months time.

Warning: Please remember that this is a single data-source analysis of what is happenning today, in the German market. This is not a complete market analysis report. You may use the data and images but please also reference this article which includes this warning.

*1 Based on SKUs, not model families. Note that Geizhals have now moved all tablets to a new category called ‘tablets.’ This category was included in the analysis. An English language (and UK market) version of Geizhals is available at Skinflint.

50 Ways to Improve the Galaxy Tab (and other Tablets)

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If you need to know what’s really important in a tablet design, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve done a LOT of research. In this article I pull all that knowledge together in a huge list of tablet improvements, based on the good old Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Also read: things to consider when designing or buying a tablet-style device.  Acheckist for a quality handheld internet tablet.

Galaxy Tab and iPad _10_

The iPad and Galaxy Tab were great, great examples of early consumer tablets in the market and for me the quality and mobility of the Galaxy Tab meant that it worked well in my family of devices. I’ve used it for over 3 years and in in the early monthf of ownership I compiled a list of issues and improvements. The list applies to other tablets too so if you’re designing or buying tablets for the market, this is the sort of list you should already have on your whiteboard. If not, take this one and make it better.

The list is over 50 items long and is split into three sections. Changes that could be made to the current Galaxy Tab are listed first and this is a good place to scan through if you’re looking to buy a Galaxy Tab. The second section includes what I would call reasonable hardware expectations for second-gen or late 2011 high-quality tablet. I don’t expect all of these features to be included but it’s a list of possible improvements. The third section is a little way-out there and includes hardware changes that may not be possible this year or could be too niche. I did have a section including third party software but that list got very long indeed and is not really relevant here.

IMPORTANT: There’s more to be added to this list and a great discussion about tablets to be had here. Chip-in with your thoughts too. You’ll have ideas that no-one has through of yet so don’t be afraid to dump them in the comments below. If it’s not too wild (lets keep it within a 2-year timeframe) i’ll add it to the list and credit you.

Software and experience changes

  1. Web browser.  Faster, mouse/finger over. Higher quality. Plugins. Password sync. Common gestures.
  2. Better protection of UI experience under load. (Run UI in separate core? Possible hardware change required for that.)
  3. Improve UI physics. Response rate needs to be 20ms or less. (I believe from my audio work in the past that 20ms is where delays become noticeable. I could be wrong but you know what I’m getting at right?) Try a drum-machine programme, It’s impossible. (Android 2.3 bring in features that can improve this through the use of the NDK)
  4. DLNA improvements. (Receivers and senders need to improve compatibility.)
  5. Protect the audio playback from stutters in multitasking scenarios. Critical. (How about a ‘dedicated’ mode where the application is brought to ‘realtime’ status, in effect, like iOS does.
  6. Vastly improved audio library features. playlist import/export, cross-fading, id3 tag editing, jukebox mode, cover retrieval, radio streams, integration with Last.fm amd similar services. Much quicker media scanning.
  7. Easier way to auto-organise applications list. Sort-by: most used, alphabetical, recently added, categorise (based on market categorisation) Apps list is as important as an audio catalogue. Genres, personal ratings on client should feed back to Market.There are a ton of improvements that can be made here.
  8. Samsung apps style improvements. Lose the wood-grain effect or allow theaming! Some feature improvements are also possible.
  9. More video content to buy / stream. Major issue outside the U.S.
  10. Full BT 3.0 (wifi TX support, near-field pairing)
  11. Longer battery life (of course!) Important – battery save mode that schedules network usage. Significant improvements will require hardware changes.
  12. More tablet / pro apps to be included via the Samsung catalogue
  13. Better gallery with sort, date search, rename, tagging, face detection etc. Stock Gallery is very limited.
  14. Better printing support. Google Cloud Print service should fix this.
  15. Apt-x codec support over BT A2DP. (Or some other HQ wireless audio transmission capability)
  16. SMS remote kill feature
  17. Compatibility with camera applications
  18. Timed profiles, turn to silence.
  19. Improve speed of re-scanning WiFi access points. Can be extremely slow in some situations.
  20. Occasionally boot-up time can run into 2 minutes or more. This needs to be improved
  21. Hot-swap SIM cards (where applicable)
  22. Slippery when dry. The smooth, easy wipe finish needs a couple of high-friction areas for book-reading
  23. AC3 and DTS soundtrack handling. (Down-sampling to 2-channel and pass-through for HDMI)
  24. Lower the lowest screen brightness (for in-bed, next-to-partner usage.)

Essential Hardware changes:

  1. Longer charger cable (and micro-usb port)
  2. Camera Quality: Glass lens, better sensor, continuous AF when recording video. Lens cover.  Flash options.  HD recording.
  3. Camera shutter release button
  4. Fm receiver + transmitter
  5. USB OTG support for external storage, keyboard, mouse, other peripherals (midi, dvb-t, external cam)
  6. Better GPS.  Sensitivity, speed.
  7. Analogue video out built-in. Is that old-school? E.G. VGA, S-Video, Composite
  8. HDMI-out port.
  9. Storage improvements. Speed of core storage needs improving. 32GB, 64GB option.
  10. Indicator lamps – multiple for use with different applications. Programmable colour.
  11. indicators and alerts need to feed to paired Android phones.
  12. Replaceable battery
  13. Kick-stand
  14. SDXC card compatibility
  15. Higher quality screen (at same or lower power utilisation.)

For the ultimate tablet:

  1. Digital radio reception.  DAB (Update: and other standards)
  2. Digital TV reception. DVB (Update: and other standards)
  3. Digitiser for graphics and handwriting input.
  4. HQ audio recording. External mic over BT? Array mics.
  5. Near field payments support (Probably best on a phone tho)
  6. Daylight readable screen (transflective)
  7. Quick Fingerprint reader for security.
  8. Midi support (be a midi sequencer/controller)
  9. HQ Audio synthesiser and audio effect support in hardware. (for use as effects unit)
  10. Built-in mini projector
  11. Remote mini handset accessory for using tablet as a phone. (Over BT with address book, dialling, voice dialling, CLI
  12. Screen extension (slide-able, removable)
  13. PVR facility and dock. (hardware video encoding – 720p)
  14. Wi-Di and wireless audio over Wifi
  15. Rear panel controls and gestures area.
  16. Glasses-free 3D (plus content)

…and lastly. Lets have a penta-boot system with Windows, Android, MeeGo, Ubuntu and WebOS!

Update: Reader contributions

  • Better device security including encryption of sensitive information (BryanB – via comment below)
  • Good design and implementation of user interface frameworks and the design/implementation of the applications. Really poorly coded application user interfaces can use all the CPU available. [Chippy: I think that’s really part of the Android framework though.] (Sam – via comment)
  • Samsung Keyboard Editor – (Max – via comment)
  • A hinged back cover with a kick-stand that would allow easy battery replacement, SSD upgrades, and safe storage of extra SDHC cards. (jjsjjsva via comment) [Chippy: I love that SDHC storage area idea. That’s a winner!]

Mobile Computing at CES – X-Over 2011

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IMG_6364 This is not the first time we’ve discussed the crossover between pro/productive/full-os mobility and the continuing threat/opportunities offered by mobile operating systems.

See: Mobile Changover – What’s Your Plan? for more from June 2010.

CES 2011 was an absolute whirlwind of crossover products and after a week of note-taking, I’ve put together a report. Following the crossover theme, I’ve published it over at Carrypad!

Report: Mobile Computing at CES 2011 – The X-Over Year

Don’t forget, Meet:Mobility Podcast 62 covers a lot of this ground too and includes perspectives from JKKMobile and Netbooknews.

Why There Isn’t an iPad Alternative

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smartdevices Continued from Twitter for  @alsutton @beantin @mkearley2008 and others that were maybe a little surprised at my tweet this morning…

“My current stance on iPad alternatives – There are none. inch

I couldn’t answer the twitter responses in 140 chars so here’s a more detailed, and I hope, understandable explanation.

Consumer Internet device success continues to hinge on applications. It’s the reason that AppUp exists, that Nokia will invest 10m into developer incentives in the US, why Samsung is throwing money to Bada developers and why Chrome OS will have a web app store. It brings critical ‘value-add’ to a product for customers, incentivises (is that a word?)developers and provides revenue opportunities for operators. It really is a killer application and only one vendor has got it right in this space so far.

While the hardware and design for most consumer internet devices [as I write, this mostly means tablets] is the same and one could argue that there are, from a visual and usage-case perspective, many choices, only one device has the application ecosystem that gives it the ‘value-add’.’ There isn’t another stack of silicon, hardware, operating system and services that provides this and there won’t be until well into 2011.

Android is a fantastic alternative *opportunity* of course but having done more testing than most on large-format Android devices, (I cast a glance over to the Toshiba AC100) I can see that current applications are still focused on the small screen. There aren’t any compulsive large screen games, video creation, music creation or even productivity apps feeding through that consider the larger form factor, longer battery life and often, more powerful CPU and GPU of a consumer internet device. Why should there be? Android V2.x doesn’t provide the hooks for large-screen app development and Google limits the use of their Market to phones (and large phones.) I also think that AppUp is a good opportunity. There are now 1000 apps in the store that are written with a larger screen and CPU in mind. Most are monetised and there’s potential for much more to happen on MeeGo (not forgetting Ovi) during 2011 but right now, can anyone name me a ‘complete product’, from silicon, through design, operating system and applications ecosystem, that offers the same as the iPad?

We used to jokingly call the iPad a large iPhone but the application store has given it differentiation. In the Android world, that differentiation option hasn’t even been enabled yet. Android tablets with the application store really are large phones and until Android is enhanced and Google widens the doors to the market (and possibly creates a large-format application suite) the solution has a limited future and doesn’t offer an alternative to the iPad.

There’s one other point I want to make. If you’re looking for an alternative to the iPad, there isn’t one. If you’re looking for a different product that looks the same then there are some choices out there. Unfortunately, in this consumer internet device/tablet market, I don’t see many people defining their requirements before choosing a solution. I see the product desire growing through application desire (and style, of course) and not connectors and micro-sd card slots.

That’s just my opinion so feel free to ramble and rant below! We might give vendors something to think about in their next product planning meeting!

Update: I always encourage thought about personal requirements. This ‘chooser’ tool i’m working on (currently in Alpha) shows 4 leading tablet devices and allows you to set your requirements and see a ‘winner’ based on public ratings. It’s not a foolproof way to choose a device but it’s a good way to start thinking about requirements. Ipad, Galaxy Tab, Viewpad 7 and Dell Streak Chooser Tool.

Netbook Freeze Is More Than Just a Summer Break.

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As I was counting the netbook articles on Liliputing this morning (2 on the first 2 pages of 18 headlines) I wondered again if the netbook market might be having more than just a summer break. The push to more powerful devices (and slightly higher prices) with the next-gen CPUs and platforms seems to me like it breaks everything that the netbook was. Its over and all that remains is the momentum of the tag (which of course will be carried forward by everyone that has invested in it.)

Sasha, my good friend and fellow MeetMobility podcaster is one of those that has a lot invested in the keyword so it’s interesting to read his thoughts on it. In an article today he highlights the advances that the new platforms will bring and assures us that everything is going to be fine. If you can wait until February, he says, you’re going to have a big selection of new devices to choose from.

I have a certain amount of my business effort invested in netbooks too. If the netbook hadn’t have arrived my company would have been dead a long time ago and, like the iPad, it makes people think and mobility, size and usability. I’m not so bullish on the future of netbooks though. There are a couple of data points I’m considering and a number of other thoughts.

Google Trends

Google trends is hardly the best indicator of sales but it does indicate popularity amount searches and popularity amongst news items. Netbooks are certainly taking second place to tablets in terms of news right now and it seems that the slow down in news is also affecting users awareness of the platform. That will have a direct impact on sales. Searches for ‘netbook’ are now running at less than one fifth of searches for Android or iPad. This time last year, Android and Netbook were attracting exactly the same level of search queries. Having said that, there are almost the same number of queries for netbook as there were one year ago. Only the number of news articles has fallen.


Number of Netbooks.

By analysing the German netbook market SKU numbers and the distribution of screen sizes over the last two years it can be clearly shown that the sub 10 inch market is long gone. The 10 inch market is flattening off in terms of new products and only the 11 inch segment is rising significantly. In this months analysis it’s also clear that the total numbers of products is flattening off which could be an indicator that growth has stopped in Germany. Again, the underlying trend is one of ‘flat’ rather than growth or decay. If this can be maintained, the netbook market will remain healthy but with new product launches sowing, it will be difficult to keep momentum. Of course, if devices are simply dropping the ‘netbook’ tag in their marketing then the devices may must be selling as ‘laptops’ although that in itself indicates that the netbook trend is over.

Based on simple screen sizes and weight figures, the traditional netbook market is already over for me.

sub_12-_screen_size_distribution (1)

total_number_of_sub_12-_pcs_(germany) (2)

Making a HIT. (Your Checklist for a Quality Handheld Internet Tablet)

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This might seem obvious but we think that many of our readers are looking for a similar product –  a consumer handheld internet device, which kinda makes sense because that’s all we cover here at Carrypad!

We wanted to simplify the decision process and short-cut some of the fuss and hype that goes on around the tablet space so we’ve come up with a checklist for you. It’s focused at the consumer tablet but much of this applies to slider and clamshell designs too.

Bookmark this article and when you see a product you like, take a quick look at this list to see if it fits the mould for an enjoyable, usable, flexible, quality handheld internet product.

Read the full story

Morgan Stanley Report: Moorestown Launches. Intel/Nokia Smartphone expected in Mid-Late 2011

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In a report from Morgan Stanley we find out that Intel have launched the Moorestown platform today.

Update: Information is obviously under embargo at this stage but there are a string of tweets that have just gone through that mention Moorestown and a Z6xx processor. e.g. this one. “Intel Z6xx smart-phone processor prototypes: Moorestown massacre: Intel says that fantasy phone is on its way, wit…” They all link to a Cnet UK article that has obviously been removed. The current Menlow platform uses Z5xx processors. This makes sense.

Update 2: Everything is official now. The Z6xx has been launched. Interesting news on Android too.

Morgan Stanley have studied Moorestown and believe that Intel is ‘well positioned with MeeGo’ and that video performance will compare with the latest smartphone platforms, including Tegra 2. They also think that Moorestown will ‘meet or exceed’ current smartphone performance. It’s a bright report that will definitely give the ARM ecosystem partners something to think about.

At its Moorestown launch on May 4, we expect
Intel to introduce and advocate multiple benchmarks to
measure and compare highly debated performance and
power consumption attributes of Smartphone
application processors. In this report, we present
several comparison frameworks, which we plan to
update after actual Moorestown data become available.
Our view is that with Moorestown, Intel will finally start to
meet the power budget for Smartphones, but will show
more favorably on processing power benchmarks.

See also: UMPCPortal Moorestown analysis here.

The financial report also states:

Our checks indicate that Intel and Nokia are also collaborating on a
Smartphone device, which we think is likely to become available in the market in
mid-to-late 2011.

Considering that this report is focusing purely on Intel’s smartphone processor and this statement appears in a section on MeeGo, the report implies that the Nokia phone will be based on Intel’s Moorestown platform and running MeeGo.

The Morgan Stanley report was published on May 3rd and has been promoted by Intel in its ‘Chip Shot’ blog. The full PDF, an interesting read if you’re comparing smartphone platforms, is available as a download here. (or via the Chip Shot blog linked above.)

Stand-by for official Moorestown launch info!


Mobile Computing Segmentation and Capabilities. (Updated from DevMob 2010)

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Thanks to the great crowd at DevMob2010 in London last week, I’ve had some good feedback to my scenarios and segmentation diagram which was originally created in 2006 and is now updated and re-published under CC license. It should help as a stimulus for software developers thinking about the possibilities in the space between smartphones and netbooks and can help device designers to think about usage scenarios. Customers will also find it useful to pick out their own usage scenarios and to see what type of device fits with their requirements.

FEEDBACK IS ENCOURAGED. If you have thoughts, please add them to the comments section below.

During my session at DevMob I had a set of suggestions which I’ve added to the diagram. It was interesting to hear suggestions for the 8-10 segment which included Multi-touch/User gaming (many players, one device) and multi-person video viewing. Those are two models that the iPad is targeting very closely. We also added ‘Media Overview / Chooser’ to the 8-10 segment based on the need for screen space for an overview of images, album cover art or video’s.

Many thanks to all that took part in the sessions at DevMob and thanks to all of you that took the time to present and talk about your ideas in this space. I hope to see you all again at the next DevMob2010 and at other events in Europe.

The diagram (V2.0) is available here (PDF)

Notes are shared in a Google Document here.

Update: I’m experimenting with a slightly different layout based on feedback below.  The segments have been re-drawn to represent a more fluid crossover point.

V2.1 diagrams are here.

PDF: https://www.umpcportal.com/downloads/devicesegments-V21.pdf
JPG: https://www.umpcportal.com/downloads/devicesegments-V21.jpg

Click for full size jpg image.

Thanks to Intel for sponsoring my trip to London for DevMob and to the Soft Talk Blog team [twitter] for their assistance.

Creative Commons License
Mobile Scenarios and Segmentation by Carrypad is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.

Things to Consider when Designing or Buying a Tablet-Style Device

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I’m somewhat frustrated by all the Apple tablet talk. Number 1, nobody has a clue what’s going on and 2, there are so many design issues with ‘tablets’ that people need to be very careful about what they get excited about. I wrote these notes a few months ago but it makes sense to post them now so that you can make assessments about WHAT YOU NEED before any wave of marketing hits you. (*1)

In addition to the notes, I’ve added a couple of diagrams that I’ve previously used in posts and presentations and I also want to point out that this article is mainly focused on hardware. Software is a critical part of the equation.

Finally, I’m not saying that this is a set of rules. This is just my perception of what’s going on. I’m excited to hear what you think and ready to learn more from you comments.

Usage Scenarios

Firstly, here’s a diagram of internet-connected usage scenarios that lie between Laptops and Smartphones. There might be a few other niche categories like digital photo frames and video conferencing but the ‘ring’ below covers the primary sectors.

Usage by screen size.

Secondly, here’s a diagram that highlights functions that sit comfortably in certain screen sizes. There are 4 screen size ranges and I’ve positioned tasks in the smallest possible category. Example: Try doing advanced photo editing on a 5 inch screen!

Click to enlarge.

Design/Usage Notes.

In no particular order, here’s a brain dump of design and usage considerations for tablet PCs.

  • One handed use: weight needs to be under 400gm for one-handed (finger-touch) use.
  • One-handed use: Width of device needs to rest comfortably in the hand in portrait mode (7 inch max)
  • Two-handed (only) operation not possible unless frame, corner or rear controls are implemented.
  • Current screen backlighting technology will add between 0.5W (for a 5 inch screen) to 2.5W (for a high-brightness 10 inch screen) Idle power drain tends to 200mw for well-designed screen-off, idle networking scenarios.
  • Minimum power envelope for an operating, connected device is about 2W (5 inch) or 3W (10 inch) (Only latest RISC CPU’s on best silicon processes can achieve this – expensive.)
  • Max drain can reach +2W over operating power envelope.
  • Battery capacity required for a 5 inch smart device – 10Wh. For a 10 inch device = 15WhTo achieve 4hrs always-on, dynamic and multitasking environment such as web and internet apps.
  • Battery weighs about 8gm per watt/hour (without control / feedback electronics – add 50gm for that)
  • Min battery (removable) and power electronics weight for a 7 inch smart device = 100gm
  • Screen backlights are ALWAYS needed for low-light operation.
  • Backlight average in-use power ranges from 0.5w (3-5 inch screen) to 2W or more (10 inch screen)
  • Capacitive touchscreens can’t be used with gloves or basic stylus.
  • Capacitive screens can’t be used for natural handwriting input, annotations, graphic creation/painting.
  • Keyboards need to split/position correctly when in portrait and landscape modes.
  • Tethering keyboards / headphones / data modems via Bluetooth is a long-winded process and requires batteries in end devices.
  • Pixel density should be between 180 and 250 pixels per inch for standard web pages unless intelligent reflowing /zooming is used. An 800-wide webpage would require about 4-inch width (about 6 inch diameter screen in portrait mode.)
  • Resistive touchscreens are not rugged.
  • Book reading does not require two-pages per view.
  • Hard drives are not rugged, are noisy and generate heat and vibration. Not to be used in tablets.
  • An integrated folding stand needs to be incorporated for PMP functions.
  • Wifi/Bt/3G/FM/GPS antenna separation is needed.
  • Mouse pointers allow selection with minimal hand movement.
  • Removing buttons helps aesthetics and ruggedness, reduces shortcuts for two-handed operation.
  • Moving buttons to ‘on screen’ reduces physical feedback, reduces usable screen area.
  • Buttons need to be backlit for night=time use
  • Screen brightness needs to be extremely low for night-time use.
  • Indicator lights distract and annoy when reading.
  • Good quality speakers allow for multi-person viewing.
  • Wifi needs to remain connected at all times (standby disconnection results in awkward delays on start-up.)
  • Web pages need to load in a 10-second average time. (with text and scrolling being available in 50-75% of that time)
  • Access to 100% of the internet requires Adobe Flash support (and, to a lesser extent, Silverlight and other run-time apps.)
  • Text selection for web applications is critical. (cut and paste.)
  • Zooming a web-page must re-flow the text to avoid left-right panning.
  • Auto screen rotate from landscape to portrait must not reset previous text selections
  • Using 3G when moving in car / train can drastically increase power drain from 3G components. (3G can take up to 1.5W in these scenarios – huge % of power drain.)
  • Docking stations help to keep a device charged and located.
  • Removable battery gives customer confidence about life-span of product.
  • Glossy screens can be filtered. Matt screens can not be made glossy with third party products.
  • Bigger screens are expected to be faster by the customer (and therefore highlight slow performance)
  • The concept of ‘idle’ is only for the lab.
  • Slider keyboards increase cost and size. decrease style.
  • Nothing over 4 inch screen is truly pocketable for most people.
  • Flash running on multiple tabs can easily take 100% of CPU on a ARM-based device.
  • A frameless device is impossible. 10mm frame is a tough design challenge.
  • For productivity users, a new operating system is a new learning curve.
  • Third party applications decrease stability and security.
  • Multi-tasking decreases battery life.
  • Fingerprint readers can drastically improve security while decreasing key presses.
  • A 7 inch screen device can be too big for a car dashboard.
  • Ebook readers are useless to the average consumer without commercial content being available through the device.
  • Cloud-based usage model is currently a home-zone possibility. (Not mobile) i.e. local storage and sync is still needed.
  • Larger designs permit higher pricing.
  • Larger designs need to deliver a faster experience (to satisfy user expectations.)
  • Notebook / clamshell designs are recognized as computers.
  • Sub 5 inch designs can be mistaken for smartphones.
  • New business models dictate that consumer tablets must be low-cost point of sale devices. (Marketplace for apps, content, accessories)
  • There are undiscovered usage scenarios.
  • There are huge numbers of new technologies and inventions that I don’t know about!

Example scenarios and solutions.

Ebook reading. 200 PPI screen with 300gm or less. Daylight (ambient light support) and backlight support needed. Content must be easy to access. Color screens important for education market (and advertising.)  See also this article.

PMP. 5 inch screen gives a comfortable 60-80cm experience. HD playback on small-screens is required because that’s what many users create and many websites deliver. You have no choice! 7 inch give HD (720p) experience and 1 meter. 5-7 inch screen in 300gm allows for only a 10-15wh battery. 5hrs online use. 7hrs video use.

Newspapers. Large screen format 9-12 inch format is impressive and permits newspaper layout ‘standards.’ Requires significantly more battery power. Advertisers want color and animated advertising. Difficult to design for one-handed use. 12 inch awkward for mobile situations. 9-12 inch also required for one-page per view A4/Letter sizing. (PDFs)

Web. Minimum resolution 800×480 although 1024×600 more comfortable and allows better portrait mode. 1024×600 at standard web (readable at 100% zoom) font sizes requires 7 inch screen. Multi-tab Flash enabled web pages can kill battery life and hog CPU if uncontrolled.

Mail, IM, social networking.Two handed thumb keyboard can only be built around max 5 inch (landscape)  or 7 inch (portrait) screen dimensions without separate keyboard. Requires always-on scenario. See also: Perfect Microblogging Device article.

An example multi-use tablet: 7 inch 300gm with 12wh battery, Cortex A8 CPU (high-end), 3D GPU, Video decoder hardware. (Intel Moorestown also a contender here.) Stand. Highly advanced on-screen keyboard with haptic feedback. 3mb HQ camera. 1.3mp LQ camera. Capacitive touchscreen. GPS, accelerometers, ambient light sensor, 3G, Wifi, docking port, 3.5mm headphone jack, array mic, stereo speakers.

The ideal tablet hardware is worth nothing without the correct software, services and content.

(*1) over the last 3.5  years I’ve learnt a lot about tablets and mobile computing devices including a lot about what doesn’t work for the masses through our pro-mobility-focused  sister website, UMPCPortal.

ISuppli: 60% of Smartphones are MIDs

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Everyone is free to make their own definition of a MID. Intel like to define it as a pocketable web-capable device. Dell used the expression for netbooks at one point and I’ve talked about a wide-ranging Ring of FIE (right) which includes MID-like, internet-connected devices that don’t even need a browser. It looks like ISuppli take a similar idea and use it for their definition of a mobile internet device.

EETimes reported a few weeks ago.

ISuppli (El Segundo, Calif.) defines MIDs as devices that have integrated connectivity for wireless local area network (WLANs), wireless metropolitan area networks or 3G-or-higher worldwide wide area networks. They also must a maximum-sized display of 8-inches in the diagonal dimension, an instant-on function, an always-connectable capability and a full day’s worth of battery life under typical usage scenarios, according to the firm’s definition.

Far enough. But what about the statement on smartphones?

Smartphones are projected to dominate the MID segment in the forecast period from 2008 to 2012, iSuppli said. The firm estimates that about 60 percent of all smartphones now are considered MID-class devices, but that figure will rise to cover 100 percent by 2012.

I agree that smartphones (if we continue to call them that) may dominate numbers as they move up the chain in terms of sizing, software and processing capability but I certainly wouldn’t class 60% of all smartphones as MIDs today.

As I said, definitions vary so despite my reservations about those smartphones, if you’re researching the sector you might want to be buying a copy of the ISuppli report.

UMPCs. Add WWAN, Sell more!

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instat I have no problem agreeing with what InStat are saying in their latest report. "Embedding a wide-area wireless modem into devices addresses the frustration many users have with the coverage of Wi-Fi." For me, wireless wan connectivity is an absolute must for a ultra mobile PC and anything without it is just portable between hotspots but I do also understand that there are problems for OEMs too. Adding 3G to a product requires more certification expense, assembly-line options, adds cost and is difficult to research on a global territory basis. This is why you see OEMs like Raon Digital offering base systems that resellers can tailor for their own customers. It’s also why Intel have a modular 3/4G option in their Menlow platform.

There are also people that aren’t quite as mobile as others using multiple WLAN locations as hot-desks or even working within a single hotspot area. Tethering and USB sticks also provide an option but as carriers get their backbones ready for this new class of netbook and UMPCs and as 3G USB stick margins drop, they will start demanding that devices come with 3G built in. If OEM’s want to get their devices into these potentially huge sales channels, they need to comply.

The InStat report also covers ultra mobile PC market predictions. Unfortunately there aren’t any hints as to what they think the market is worth and even what a ultra mobile PC or UMD is. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s going to be too much growth in the traditional ultra mobile PC market (productive, 6-8" screen, lightweight mobile computing hardware running desktop software) this year due to lower-cost netbook options and fairly static vertical markets and solutions but if you look at lower down in the market at 4-5" devices, there’s something starting to happen. Viliv, Raon, UMID, Fujitsu, Wibrain, Lluon and others are all in with new devices. Some may call them MIDs but when they running Windows and looking exactly like the Origami marketing dreams of 2006, you’ve got to consider them as UMPCs.

Report summary (PDF)

Via Center Daily